December 23, 1999
This is in response to your December 16, 1999 email to Anne F. Saile requesting information regarding the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) investigation of Joseph Burrascano, M.D.
Pursuant to the New York Public Health, all information, including the identity of a complainant, in OPMC investigations is confidential. Public Health Law, Section 230(10)(a)(v) states, in part: "the files of the office of professional medical relating to the investigation of possible instances of professional misconduct shall be confidential and not subject to disclosure at the request of any person..." The confidentiality of the OPMC files is not discretionary, it is the law.
The Board for Professional Medical Conduct (The Board), which is within the Department of Health, is charged with the statuatory responsibility under Section 230 of the Public Health Law to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute allegations of medical misconduct by physicians and physician assistants in New York State. Pursuant to statute, the Board is comprised of both physicians and lay members and all decisions of the Board are issued by committees whose membership includes two physicians and a lay Board member.
Investigations are conducted by professional staff at the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), often assisted by attorneys assigned from the Division of Legal Affairs. Where the investigation reveals that a physician may have engaged in professional medical misconduct, defined by statute to include an act of gross negligence or incompetence or repeated acts of simple negligence or incompetence, the case is reviewed by an Investigation Committee of the Board consisting of two physicians and a lay member. If the Investigation Committee recommends that a hearing is warranted, the Director of the Office of Professional Medical Conduct, after consultation with the undersigned, may direct that charges be drawn and refer the case for prosecution. The case is then tried before a separate Hearing Committee, again consisting of two physicians and a lay Board member. If charges are sustained, the Hearing Committee can impose sanctions including revocation of suspension of the physician's license, probation and fines. Following the Hearing Committee determination, both the Department of Health and the physician can seek review by the Administrative Review Board (ARB), which is a standing committee of the Board consisting of three physicians and two lay members of the Board.
The Office of Professional Medical Conduct is often faced with the challenge of identifying legitimate, recognized, and authoritative opinions in medicine regarding the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of a variety of medical conditions. We have had similar experiences with other diseases. In these instances, the Office relies heavily on recognized independent medical expert opinions to assist in formulating what are the appropriate standards of practice and care to best protect the patient-public. It is reasonable to apply this investigative strategy for patients with either Lyme disease or its presumed diagnosis.
In the case of Lyme disease, the Centers for Disease Control, American Lyme Disease Foundation, Medical Letter, and a host of other sources have provided guidance for the standard care of Lyme disease. Rarely, if ever, have these guidelines indicated that anything more than two-three weeks of antibiotics are required to cure Lyme disease.
I assure you that the Department of Health is committed to ensuring that patients receive the services they require and that physicians provide a quality of care that meets or exceeds standards established by state and federal regulations.
Your letter will be maintained in the files of the Office of Professional Medical Conduct.
Ansel R. Marks, M.D., J.D.
Board for Professional Medical Conduct"
cc. Anne F. Saile
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